It’s a pretty familiar refrain among college students: “It doesn’t matter if I vote or not. Our votes don’t make a difference; nobody cares if I vote.” The thing is, guys, you’re wrong about all of it. Yes, your votes matter; yes, they do make a difference and yes, people care whether or not you vote. Who cares if students vote? Well, for one, Anna Vlahos certainly does.
Last week, Ms. Vlahos, the Executive Director of Stop Voter Fraud, sent an open letter to the Santa Barbara Voter Registration Office asking them to discount voter registrations from before 2010. Sound sketchy and questionably legal? Just wait, it gets better. See, Vlahos isn’t concerned with the integrity of voter registration in Santa Barbara County as a whole — her request specifically targets UCSB and Isla Vista, citing the “transient” nature of the student population, which does sound like a reasonable argument until you actually stop to think about it.
This request is just the latest in a series of attempts by this group to disenfranchise the student population in Isla Vista. The group itself was formed in support of a county supervisor candidate who lost the election three years ago and attempted to have every ballot cast in Isla Vista thrown out by accusing student groups of voter fraud. The accusations of voter fraud were roundly dismissed by every court to hear it, but that hasn’t kept Stop Voter Fraud from continuing their attempts to exclude students from the electoral process. After their efforts to throw out student votes after the 2008 election failed, it appears SVF has developed a new strategy: prevent students from voting at all in the June 5 primary. Apparently they don’t buy into the idea that everyone should have a say in government, at least not when there’s an election on the line.
So, what can you do about it? First of all, as strange as it sounds, don’t panic. Should you be outraged? Yes, absolutely, but don’t start worrying just yet — Joe Holland, the Country Clerk, has always been fair and competent, so you can trust that he’ll do the right thing here. Second, make sure you’re registered to vote. If you’re not, now would be a great time to change that, to show Ms. Vlahos that it’ll take more than her ridiculous, underhanded tactics to scare us off. Finally, fight to protect your rights by voting on June 5, and together, we’ll prove just how much our votes really matter.
Presley Mellor is a first-year communication major.